Sometimes you know a thing but you still want to hear it, and I can’t get enough of hearing that the Falcons will be keeping Grady Jarrett and Julio Jones around for as long as possible. Thankfully, Thomas Dimitroff reiterated that again today.
Thomas Dimitroff reiterates the offseason priorities — work on Grady Jarrett’s deal and then extend Julio Jones.— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) January 31, 2019
I’ll be blunt: If the team botches these situations, it’s going to cast a pall over their offseason no matter what they do. Jarrett is still weirdly underrated by some quarters of the fanbase, but he’s been an impact defensive tackle for a couple of seasons now and is coming off the best year of his career. Getting him locked up ensures the Falcons have, at minimum, Jarrett and Senat in the middle for the next several years, giving them youth and talent at a position where they haven’t always enjoyed either, much less both. Ideally, the Falcons would bolster both DT and DE this offseason, but locking up Jarrett gives them three quality options at the position for 2019, at least.
The urgency level with Julio isn’t as high, given that Julio is not a free agent, but Thomas Dimitroff promised the Falcons would address his contract to bring it in line with the NFL’s elites, and I fully expect he’ll keep his word. Julio’s fresh off one of the finest seasons of his career and is perhaps the league’s most feared weapon, so ensuring the Falcons can keep him around for as long as possible, keeping him happy, and hopefully creating some short-term financial flexibility are all priorities and net good things.
What will these contracts look like? Jarrett would need $14-plus million per year in annual average value to be among the top five or so at his position, which he’ll certainly be looking for. Julio will likely be shooting for close to (or more than) $18 million per year in annual average, which is what Odell Beckham Jr. is getting and would allow him to leapfrog from 11th in that metric league-wide to 1st or 2nd. Creativity in structure will be critical for both, of course, because the Falcons are soon going to have to pay Keanu Neal (a likely 2021 free agent) and Deion Jones (a 2020 free agent), and neither one will be cheap.
But if you aspire to be a great team, you also don’t cut corners in your efforts to keep your best players around. The Falcons will rightly make these two a top priority in the offseason, and hopefully they can make enough wise decisions elsewhere to get that done and add a couple of impact players in free agency.